MCO Singer Insider: Chelsee Rowberry

My name is Chelsee Rowberry, and I am a choir snob. I should have realized it earlier. I have loved singing for as long as I can remember, especially in choirs. I knew when I went to college that I wanted to study music, and I graduated with a degree in choral education from Brigham Young University. I think my most memorable college choral experience was singing under the direction of Mack Wilberg before he left to direct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The dedication of the director, the majesty of the music, and the skills of the singers were elevating. It left an impression on me that affects who I am, even years later.

After college, my main singing outlet was church choir. After such amazing choral experiences in college, church choirs were a musical letdown but a great opportunity to develop faith, (vain?) hope, and charity. As my family grew and my spare time shrunk, I began to look for a way to reincorporate high quality choral singing in my life.

After a long wait and some searching, I started singing with MCO in 2008. For the first time since college, when I rehearsed with MCO I experienced the same emotions I felt when I sang with collegiate choirs.

MCO offers exactly what I loved about high-performance college choirs.

The MCO conductors are dedicated—perhaps even too much! My husband likes to joke that MCO is half choir, half cult. Certainly the members are committed, due in no small measure to the examples of Brett, Brandon, Cory, and Cherilyn. Performing in an elite choir requires time and commitment, and the result is a unique connection with other like-minded and talented individuals—like a cult, but with a good kind of brainwashing. Like my college choirs, rehearsals are focused and practice outside rehearsals is necessary to master the music. Although rehearsals can be exhausting and require absolute attention, focusing my energy on the music gives my brain a great escape from daily life and its seemingly never-ending list of to-dos.

The music is majestic. We sing powerful, original arrangements in one of the best concert halls in the country. MCO’s resident composers continually produce soul-stirring masterpieces that the choir premieres in concert (a rarified experience). Even more, MCO regularly records this music and releases it on albums and iTunes. It’s incredibly fulfilling to be a part of a professional (and commercially available!) recording.

The singers are talented. I have met some in the choir who have advanced degrees in vocal performance. Many others sang in elite college choirs across the country. All come with a desire to work hard and magnify their talents and take part in a musical masterpiece. Being a part of this group is humbling—even for a choir snob. There may not be another choir in the world that is as versatile as MCO—it can produce a really big sound with a full orchestra but can also sing reserved, quiet, and focused with minimal or no accompaniment.

Because of the incredible musical experiences I’ve had in my life, I wanted my kids to have the opportunity as well. My three older kids who are in MCO (as well as the 5-year-old who requests “Ríu Ríu Chíu “on repeat) love to sing the MCO songs. MCO helps develop their musical skills and requires them to do something hard. In a country where youth are commonly coddled, the directors demand excellence, good posture, and attentive singers—yet my kids still look forward to going each week. MCO pushes them beyond their normal capacities and they come away better for it. They also get a chance to meet and make friends with kids outside their neighborhood.

Because of all of the hard work and discipline during rehearsals, my kids come home from the concerts feeling accomplished and confident. They know they are a part of something great, and they take great pride in that. I love that we get to sing together on the same stage. One of my favorite things is to look up in the choir loft and see my kids singing their little hearts out. It is a very unique experience that I am truly grateful for.

As a busy mom of five, I don’t have much time to spend on myself, but I make time for MCO. I look forward, every week, to spending three hours doing what I love.